Something we’ve anticipated for four years is happening on Sun., April 19, 2015…mark the date! Two weeks after Easter.
Four years ago, I sat across the table from a sharp young man who was making his way up the corporate ladder at a large and prominent Dublin-based company, but that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. Instead he was trying to decipher what he thought might be a Call on his life to be a pastor and a compassion for the community of Hilliard. More on that story in a moment…
Actually, we’ve anticipated this more than four years ago…more like 9 years ago!
In 2006 the leadership at Heritage Christian Church in Westerville was considering a number of bold moves to trust God as we “tipped ourselves over” and send out several church plants. Heritage had grown 10x from 250-2500 in less than 10 years and was geographically land-locked. There were few options to continue to handle the expansion God was doing, except sending out some of our key leaders to follow Jesus in other parts of the central Columbus area. One of those areas was Dublin, Ohio, from where over 50 folks were traveling across town each Sunday morning to attend Heritage services in Westerville.
I remember asking Tammy, my wife, who had been so unbelievably supportive of me as I poured much of my time and energy into managing Heritage through 30% growth/year for 7 years. Our boys were 1 and 3 when we moved to Westerville to serve at Heritage and were 8 and 11 when the idea to plant in Dublin came up. Her response after a few weeks of prayer was priceless, “I’ll follow God anywhere. I’ll follow you wherever God leads you. I absolutely, 100%, do not want to leave Heritage.” In some ways it broke her heart to leave people and a church she had poured into there as much as I had.
But this is the heart of God: sacrifice and be sent in order to spread the gospel and to expand his church. That’s what it is to be Christian…to be a Jesus-follower. To be a Christian is to be a missionary. A missionary at heart and in action. We are “sent ones.” That is our core identity; our Spiritual vitality; our age-old mandate that began in the first century…that Luke records in Acts, Chapter 1, when Jesus says, “…you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” And which Matthew records when Jesus uttered some of his final words, “Go, and make disciples…of all nations.” That’s what we do. We go. And we go because Jesus is worth it. We go, and pour out our lives for him because he poured out his life to save us. We go because in Christ we have been fully accepted and affirmed and so out of this great love we obey with joy.
And here we go again, 8 years later having “gone” once before to Worthington…where dozens have been baptized and hundreds of our friends, neighbors, and associates have heard the gospel. God has been faithful as we followed!
So here’s the exciting news: Vista, all of us in the Vista family are soft-launching a new Vista Community in Hilliard. If things go well, there might be another service this summer, and then hopefully a full launch of a weekly service in the fall.
Just like 50+ were traveling to Heritage from Dubin, 50+ are traveling to Dublin from Hilliard. Let’s go to Hilliard! The truth is, we’re already in Hilliard. Those who live there now have been gathered in small groups, growing together and working together to reach their community. They’ve been praying for over 1000 unchurched friends, they have been building relationships with the schools, municipality and churches in the area.
Chris and Lani Kelley have been leading the charge. Along many other dedicated saints. Chris has been patient and focused since that day we talked across the table. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do to prepare…everything that we’ve learned over the years of trying to identify and equip new leaders and pastors. He’s sought counseling to unpack some baggage; He’s completed our 1-year residency (Vista Leadership Residency – VLR); He’s sacrificed his career to come on staff without any guarantees. He’s educated and trained himself through extensive reading and conferencing. Currently, he’s serving in the Worthington community, in support of the Directorate Team there, while we continue to search for a permanent Community Pastor. Chris is getting invaluable “OJT” as he leads, equips and serves. Just another example of our leaders serving the greater mission to be part of a movement of communities…not just always tied to one local expression.
Lani has too. She’s leaned into personal development with enlightened vigor; she’s in the VLR program now; she’s served for years in the church and was on staff for a season as well. Lani is breaking new ground for Jesus all over Hilliard. She started and leads a study of moms who are not all churched. She launched a Facebook page that is helping hundreds of women connect, support and even pray for one another. If a few haven’t met Jesus through that effort already, it won’t be long.
The Kelleys (Chris, Lani + their 3 kiddos) are a great team, sold out for Jesus, and leaning more every day into the missional identity and heart God has breathed into them.
So, here we are a movement of communities at the intersection of Jesus and real life. Continuing to allow Jesus to press his gospel more deeply into our own hearts and faithfully stepping out on the Gospel’s Edge and into others lives who haven’t found their way back to God…yet…
Hilliard, like Worthington and Dublin, are just part of the greater Vista Community Church story. I pray that you will join us as we follow God’s lead into Hilliard. Maybe you feel God has you securely at the Worthington or Dublin communities. If so, great! But we encourage you to seek God about how you, as part of the greater Vista family, can support this new expression. That might mean that you’re helping to train and release leaders to serve in Hilliard in the future, or you’re stepping up to fill some gaps that will inevitably arise at Dublin when the time comes. Perhaps you’re praying, too, seeking God’s wisdom on whether you’re meant to be “sent” to Hilliard to help support the new Vista Community Church there. Maybe it means you feel led to start giving to specifically support new Vista communities, or offer your time or expertise in some way. Whatever it may be, we’re family…we’re all in this together!